Uncertainty is a fact of life, especially in the workplace.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to leave its mark on the labor market. With layoffs and furloughs in 2020, hiring sprees in 2021, high inflation rates, and more mass layoffs in 2022, it’s hard to predict what the headwinds (or opportunities) will look like in the months ahead.
And that’s just scratching the surface. Growing uncertainty around job security has increased union popularity among Gen Z and Millennial workers. 41% of workers are more likely to join a union than three years ago.
There are a lot of moving parts to juggle in today’s work environment. And we can’t predict what the future holds, but we can do our best to stay nimble and prepare for the rocky seas ahead.
To help plan for uncertain times and minimize workplace uncertainty, you need to understand your employees’ needs and what they value from their jobs.
Today we’re sharing six ways to help you minimize workplace uncertainty when economic and geopolitical headwinds loom on the horizon.
Let’s dive in.
Why is it important to combat workplace uncertainty?
When workers feel uncertain about their jobs and responsibilities, it translates to stress on their shoulders. With the added pressure comes anxiety and pessimism about the future that significantly drain employee happiness and morale.
According to the State of the Global Workplace 2022 report, 50% of US employees feel stressed, and 41% feel worried at work. These figures are startling — and 46% to 83% higher than an employee would report if they felt stability in their role.
Managers should treat workplace uncertainty as a critical business challenge hindering workplace productivity. Honest and more consistent communication with employees will increase employee engagement and morale.
It’s a win-win situation for both your employees and your company’s bottom line, with studies showing that businesses with highly engaged employees produce 23% higher profits than businesses with miserable workers.
So don’t let this problem get out of control. Here are 6 simple ways you can help minimize workplace uncertainty during challenging times:
1. Set clear expectations
The best way to minimize workplace uncertainty is to set clear expectations, especially regarding working performance and responsibilities.
In other words, if you want your employees to be on top of their game, ensure they know what you expect from them, what benchmarks or outcomes they must hit, and how they can reach out to you when they need help or guidance.
When you set clear expectations, it takes away the guesswork. Employees should feel at ease if they are hitting their target deadlines and adhering to all posted guidelines.
And the opposite also holds true. If employees realize that they are starting to fall below stated expectations, clarifying expectations can spark motivation in them to step it up a notch to avoid any negative consequences.
Setting these expectations around workplace responsibilities will keep everyone feeling more secure about their jobs during uncertain times.
Pro tip: Invest in software like LiquidPlanner where tasks are reflected in priority order and changes can be made on the fly. Employees have access to the essential information they need to succeed in their role and collaborate effectively to achieve greater productivity and more confident outcomes.
2. Help employees develop the right skillset to thrive in change
As a team leader, you can help your employees develop the right skills and attitudes to thrive in uncertain times.
In today’s fast-paced business environment, it’s no longer enough for your employees to do their job well — they’ll need to adapt as situations change. And the best way to do that’s by teaching them the right skills and mindset.
Focus on developing specific training programs that teach your employees to move quickly (but carefully), work with others, and think on their feet. If they lack these skills or begin to show a negative attitude, it’ll become apparent when change happens in the workplace.
And as a manager, you’re responsible for helping your employees develop those skill sets and mindsets so they can thrive in change.
Here are some tips to help set your employees up for success:
- Be open-minded about what kinds of learning opportunities you offer.
- Make sure your team members know they’re free to ask questions and seek help when needed.
- Don’t let yourself get bogged down by old ways of doing things — remember that change is inevitable, and thinking outside the box could be the best way forward.
3. Carve out time to meet with employees individually
Building a relationship with each of your employees and maintaining an open line of communication is essential to a thriving work environment.
Start by regularly meeting with them individually, either in person or via phone or video conferencing. As a rule of thumb, try to meet with each employee at least once a month and always focus your full attention during the meeting. Encourage your employee to share how they are feeling and what you can do to help them achieve greater job satisfaction, not just status updates on work underway.
A consistent meeting schedule helps you to learn about what’s going on in their lives and how you can help them succeed at work. It also allows you to share feedback if things start to fall by the wayside with their performance.
Regular meetings also help employees feel like they are worth your time and create a sense of comfort in knowing that you care enough to take time out of your busy day.
4. Be transparent
When times are uncertain, it’s critical to be honest and open with employees.
It’s an area where you can set a positive example for your team by sharing information as soon as possible. You’ll also want to regularly update team members on business performance by sharing good and bad news.
Remember to always share the big picture. Although this may seem obvious, many businesses need to work on communicating what’s going on by staying away from focusing on narrow issues or problems.
Instead, focus on providing context about how certain decisions will impact everyone involved in your organization — and why you made those decisions in the first place.
If you run a remote team, ensure you use the proper medium to deliver the news. For example, you can send messages via live chat, email, newsletters, or video calls.
When you are sharing firmwide information, a newsletter is a good approach. However, a face-to-face video call is the best approach if you deliver good or bad news impacting a specific individual.
5. Provide opportunities for autonomy
In addition to providing transparency, try to give people as much autonomy as possible.
One way to boost employees’ sense of control is to empower them to make decisions wherever possible. That could mean choosing their own schedule or setting performance goals.
Most people will naturally want to take ownership of their work and be more motivated if they feel they have some control over it. Giving them authority over small tasks can help boost their confidence and productivity.
This isn’t just about letting them decide when they take a lunch break — it’s also about allowing them freedom from micromanagement by others.
For example, don’t stand in the way if one of your employees has an idea for a new project or initiative that could benefit them and your company.
Give them the okay and let them go ahead with what they think will work best — you might be surprised at how well things turn out. If a failure emerges, celebrate the failure as a valuable lesson learned and related professional development. With this approach, you can be sure it won’t happen again and in most cases, the employee will apply additional discretionary effort to deliver a win the next time.
Another way is to encourage employee health via good habits like eating well, getting enough sleep, and exercising. Work-life balance and health are important to everyone, and if you can offer it as an employer, it will translate to workforce loyalty and productivity.
6. Build trust
As we noted earlier, trust is the foundation of all successful relationships.
Trust is hard to earn and can be built by being honest and transparent with others. Trust comes with consistency and reliability in your actions, words, and promises to others.
If you want to build trust with your employees, providing high-quality benefits and not wavering over these promises will always be the best approach.
An example of an employer commitment that is appreciated by employees can be found at this courier service company. By choosing to provide health insurance to all their employees (both full and part-time), you establish a commitment to equitable treatment and belay how employees may be impacted by the economic uncertainty we are all currently facing.
If your bottom line starts to take a hit, continue to prioritize providing the best health insurance benefits possible because of the value it conveys to your employees. If cuts are needed, look at dialing back travel or other discretionary expenses instead of reducing the benefits your employees rely upon.
Building this trust will help you minimize workplace uncertainty during challenging times because it helps your team members feel like they are part of a special place where they truly belong.
We hope this post has given you some new ideas for managing uncertainty in your workplace.
Managing workplace anxiety is a tall task. But if you lay out all of the expectations for your employees on day one and you’re as transparent as possible throughout the ups and downs, everyone will feel a little more at ease (and more supported) during uncertain times.
And if all else fails? Don’t panic. Remind your employees that these feelings are temporary and nothing lasts forever — even bad news about layoffs or downsizing at work.
As the saying goes, “this too shall pass.”
About the Author
Kelly Moser is the co-founder and editor at Home & Jet, a digital magazine for the modern era. She’s also an expert in freelance writing and content marketing for SaaS, Fintech, and ecommerce startups.